It was supposed to be the biggest and best day to be a soccer fan in the United States. We were going to be awarded the 2022 World Cup. We were going to host Earth’s most prestigious soccer tournament, and we were going to do it in just 12 years.
Well, so much for that.
FIFA awarded the ’22 World Cup to the tiny country of Qatar, population 1.7 million. Known best as the home of the U.S.’s largest military base on the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is oil rich and overflowing with natural gas reserves. Which, clearly, makes it essential to U.S. foreign policy; not a place to hold the world’s most essential sporting event.
Aside from FIFA’s inane reasoning, three main questions loom large moments following Thursday’s decision:
1. Where will the matches be played? Qatar has just one legitimate soccer stadium, in Al Khor, and little infrastructure outside the capital of Doha to accommodate a circus like the World Cup. Will Qatar’s run-up be different from that of South Africa in 2010, and Brazil in 2014, whereas construction issues plague progress and last-minute replacements are discussed?
2. When will the matches be played? The average temperatures in Qatar in June and July are 106 and 115, respectively. Players and fans will literally melt unless the games are played in the middle of the night, when temps dip to just under triple-digits. Purportedly, Qatar’s World Cup bid included provisions for air-conditioned stadia and other amenities to help beat the heat. But really, is there anything that can be done to limit stifling 110-degree heat in an outdoor arena?
3. Isn’t there any worry about the increased likelihood of a terrorist attack, given the location and demographic into which the tournament will be landing? Qatar is neighbors with Saudi Arabia, and just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. Doesn’t this scream Mumbai to anyone else? And while on the topic of terrorist states, how could FIFA completely overlook Israel’s bid? What about Iraq’s? Did those countries have too many blown-up buildings? Or not enough cash?
Just a mind-boggling day from FIFA. Not only did the corrupt organization, led by kingpin Sepp Blatter, fail its biggest test, but it actually denied long-term gains in favor of short-term goals. In awarding the ’18 event to Russia and the ’22 event to Qatar, FIFA has achieved intended consequences — soccer will reach new locales. But in denying England in ’18 and the United States in ’22, FIFA has also achieved unintended consequences — displaying complete disregard for the game’s oldest and newest commodities.
What was supposed to be the biggest and best day for soccer fans in the United States now ranks among the worst.
Will there be a bid for ’26? For ’30? Can either of those succeed without serious financial consideration toward FIFA and its maniacal caregiver Blatter? And how much is enough to secure a decision?
It may not seem like it’d be worth it now. But come eight or 12 years from now, when FIFA makes its next decision(s), do we do want to again be the only ones that didn’t bring Doha, Doha bills to the party?